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Response to SEVP Guidance

July 15 Update: ICE published a FAQ for SEVP Stakeholders about COVID -19

July 14 Update: Government Rescinds Controversial International Student Policy

CGE is closely monitoring the situation and will keep everyone updated if any other restrictions are imposed in the near future.

Dear International Students,

On July 6, 2020 the US Government released guidance about immigration requirements for the Fall 2020 semester. You can read the guidance here.

University of Tennessee is offering a hybrid format and will be conducting coursework face-to-face as well as online.  This means that in order to maintain immigration status while in the United States, UT international students will need to enroll in at least one face-to-face or hybrid course (see the various types of class modes here). However, you must enroll in as many face-to-face or hybrid courses as possible in order to maintain normal progress in your degree. Research courses including Thesis, Dissertation and Independent Study courses are considered face-to-face courses.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What happens if I am outside the US and I cannot come to campus?

If you are outside the US and do not intend or are unable to return to campus for Fall 2020, you are still able to continue to enroll in online classes.  However, according to the guidance issued on July 6, you are not able to remain in F-1 student status while you are outside the country.  If you are in this situation, please speak with an International Student Advisor as soon as possible (see instructions for virtual advising below).

Do I need a new I-20 or a new visa?

Your I-20 will be updated to include information required by the new guidance. You will receive this updated I-20 electronically through your UTK email in the next few weeks. It will include the following language in the remarks section: “This program is not entirely online, and the student will not be taking an entirely online course load. The student is taking the minimum number of online courses to make normal progress.”

This update will not change any other information on your I-20. Your SEVIS ID number will remain the same and any currently valid student visa you have will remain valid.

How many online classes can I take and still maintain my immigration status?

The guidance says that you should take the “minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress” in your degree. Unlike previous semesters, this means that you can take more than one online class if necessary. The exact number of online classes that you can take will depend on your specific situation. If three of the four classes you need to take are offered online, and one is face-to-face, then you can take three online classes. Although you can now take more than one online class, you must enroll in at least one face-to-face or hybrid class.

Do I still need to enroll full time?

Yes.  Although the rules governing online classes have changed, the requirement to be a full-time student remains the same.

What happens if I cannot find enough face-to-face or hybrid classes?

You should speak with an academic advisor or your graduate advisor. They should be able to help you find alternatives that will help you satisfy the face to face immigration requirements. If you and your advisor are struggling to find appropriate coursework, please speak with an International Student Advisor as soon as possible (see instructions for virtual advising below).

What happens if the University must go to fully online in the middle of the semester? Will international students need to leave the country?

The University is currently exploring ways to limit the impact to international students in the event that we need to go fully online during the semester. We are exploring alternative methods of instruction that will satisfy the need to keep people safe but will also allow international students to comply with the requirements of their visa.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is committed to finding solutions to these complicated issues that minimize the disruptions to international students’ lives. We value UT’s international students and the important contributions they make to campus. The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and this new US Government guidance has led to anxiety and frustration. Please know that we are continuously monitoring this evolving situation and that we are working to provide timely and accurate information. We remain committed to you, and we are here to support you in any way that we can.

International Student Advisors are available for virtual advising Monday to Friday 1pm to 4pm Eastern Standard Time. To add yourself to the queue complete the Front Desk Check-In form. If you are taken to a page that says “Successful Check-In” after completing the form, then you have been added to the queue. Enter either your UT Student ID number or your UT email address and select the way by which you would prefer an advisor to contact you (Skype, phone). Once your turn arrives, an advisor will contact you via Skype or call you at the number you list in the form.

Center for Global Engagement
University of Tennessee Knoxville